A Burness DNA Project has been established at Family Tree DNA to supplement traditional genealogical research based on records and family history with scientific research using DNA analysis. More than forty branches of the Burness family have been identified from research in existing records, but it has not been possible to prove from these records whether or not these branches are descended from a common Burness ancestor. It is hoped that DNA analysis will solve this problem. Only Burness males are tested using DNA analysis of the Y chromosome since this is passed down from father to son, which is how the Burness surname is usually passed on. If those tested have closely matching results, this proves they share a common male ancestor within a certain number of generations.
Results to date include ten men with documented descent from Walter Burness who were found to have closely matching Y-DNA. This provides scientific evidence that the traditional genealogy based on records and family history is indeed correct. Descendants of Alexander Burness (c1753-1841) and George Burness (c1815-1895) from Fordoun, and John Burness (c1853-1917) from Liverpool also have closely matching Y-DNA, which proves that these branches of the Burness family are descended from Walter Burness, or his paternal ancestor, although the exact connection has not been determined yet. In the Burness Y-DNA Colorized Chart below these results are included in Family Group 1.
Descendants of six other branches of the Burness family have been found to have closely matching Y-DNA with each other, but not with the descendants of Walter Burness. This shows they share a common male Burness ancestor, whose exact identity has not been determined yet. Since these branches of the Burness family come from the same small area of Kincardineshire as Walter Burness, it seems likely that they are connected through the female line, which would not show up in a Y-DNA test. This likely happened when a female Burness had an illegitimate son who took the Burness surname. In the Burness Y-DNA Colorized Chart below these results are included in Family Group 2.
As well, several men tested do not match any others, so they are not connected in the male line to either group above. However, there could be a connection in the female line.
In future, it is planned to test more men from other branches of the Burness family to determine whether or not their Y-DNA closely matches that of anyone already tested, and thus help determine where their branch of the Burness family tree connects to others.